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Old 06-09-2010, 09:06   #1
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What Makes a Good Captain

From a crew perspective, what makes a good captain ?

P.
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Old 06-09-2010, 09:27   #2
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Someone that doesn't flaunt their oupv. Confidence, humility, clear communications, decent human being. Basically the kind of person that you'd like to hang out with coupled with lots of experience and clear command capabilities. You don't need to strut around like Admiral Nimitz on an afternoon sail but when things start getting rough you need to be solid as an oak tree.

Saying from the Navy "He who has the least amount of power holds onto it the tightest."
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Old 06-09-2010, 10:58   #3
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There are lots of attributes that go together to make a good captain, but several essentials (for me) are above average communications skills and a consistency in the way they deal with people and situations.

Of course those are on top of good seamanship and superior boating skills.

Whew, one could go on forever...
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Old 06-09-2010, 13:15   #4
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The best skippers I ever had were clear in their expectations, knowledgable in their directions, approachable in their demeanor, respectful towards their crew and generous in their teaching . I've had some real idiots, incompetents and terrifying individuals but as my knowledge grew so did my patience. Each Captain I sailed under taught me something, good or bad, and I tried to learn from the experience. One of the best I ever sailed with was rough as sandpaper in his communication but solid as a rock in a tough spot at sea. I sailed under him for 4 years and he became like a father to me. He taught me patience, determination, compassion and probably forgot more about the sea than I'll ever know. A good skipper tries to replicate the things he or she admires in each of his or her mentors and treats his or her crew as they would like to be treated while maintaining command and control in every situation. It's called leadership... Capt Phil
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Old 06-09-2010, 16:32   #5
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Someone who can warp in a 67 foot single screw motoryacht would be a good start Says (to me) Skipper has confidence and has been willing to learn. To me an indicator of only good things.

(As crew) I want a Skipper I can have confidence in. And I want a Skipper to have confidence in me.

It's how we both get there that to me makes a good Skipper - and on that relationship the Skipper is in the driving seat.

Skipper needs to understand that his (or her ) crew are made and do not arrive perfectly formed.

I may know my way around boats enough to raise sails or to drop an anchor on my foot - but when I get onboard a new (to me) boat I don't know how to do anything. let alone well and certainly not how the Skipper wants things done.

Hell, I could work most things out given time, but I would prefer to learn how things are already done onboard so I can become a part of the team...........but for that I don't want to use only ESP So I do need to be told WTF is expected from me - preferably well in advance so I can get my head around things, rather than have 5 seconds.

Initially also a trade off between helping and being in the way Good Skipper understands this is a temporary blip along the way to clockwork crew and therefore is encouraging to new crew to muck in.

A good crew member is a part of a team (whether that is a team of 2 or 20), takes time to run like clockwork where each compliments and enhances the other, and which in practice also involves moving around the boat in a way that avoids conflicting. and also to learn how communication is made onboard. both verbally and with hand signals. frequency as well as content Skipper helping this process saves time - rather than the team developing in spite of the Skipper, not because of.

For some things some Crew do need explaining more than once not to say that I can't drop an anchor, but until I get familiar with the boat (and the Skipper / helm) I will be more deliberate (aka slower!) to both avoid self injury and also avoid damage to the boat. I can always do quick and brute force, just on your boat I don't yet know how much of those is good........

Therefore Good Skipper hands out tasks according to abilities (both proven and those assessed as within reach of known capability - not just to claimed or hoped for ability), and where a familiarisation is part of the drill then allows for the new crew to not be so efficient as they will be.

You can get excited all you want about me not being quick enough in tacking, but I will still have all my fingers and odds are you will still have all your winch handles ..........but if you hadn't allowed for the possibility of new crew making a horlicks then in my book anything we hit is down to you Not to say that if a Supertanker was bearing down on us I wouldn't be risking a few fingers more than usual

Also a good Skipper will expect that crew will not be perfect 100% of the time. and that sometimes 80% is ok, even if not always. You work with what you have, not what you would like. So if a crew member's ability turns out to be limited then a good Skipper gives them only appropriate tasks within abilities.

Some of us have a book of Knots that is rather on the thin side but have still never lost a Fender overboard. or a towed dinghy. You can explain to me all you like how to do a sheepshank granny knot with the rabbit going in the hole - but it won't sink in. It's called Knotphobia and is a medical disorder - criticism of the sufferor is therefore racist or summit And the names of things may not always be on the tip of the tongue, when it is you doing the fiddling at the mast step the names of the pieces of string don't always matter.

Skipper avoiding bump into continents is useful. and finding them is also nice

If Skipper is a nice chap (or a chappess) then a bonus Have spent half my life working with and for folks I didn't personally like greatly. and the other half with folk I wouldn't piss on if on fire But nonetheless have no problem working with most. Out of choice though pleasant is nice
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Old 06-09-2010, 16:56   #6
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The best captains never show all the things they know and considered. They make sound decisions by planning ahead. This leaves them a lot more time to handle the issues with crew yet treat them nice. They can react to situations that change.

It's about managing crew yet knowing they hold more responsibility than the crew. It's knowing they actually need the crew for the long haul and the trials along the way may not be until the end of the trip. It's finding strengths and building up weakness just in case the extra effort should come near and hoping it does not. It may mean sleeping less and thinking more.

Good captains make a crew better than they thought they could be.
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Old 06-09-2010, 16:56   #7
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Uhh...Fishing skills & the proper hat?



Great Captain!
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Old 06-09-2010, 16:59   #8
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Hats do help! Nice fish too.
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Old 06-09-2010, 17:01   #9
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Good captains buy drinks regularly thus solving the problem of too many captains.
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Old 06-09-2010, 17:23   #10
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Apparently a red bikini is an asset too.

Seriously, in my experience the single most important characteristic that makes a good captain is that he or she trusts the crew. That's not to say that they should give carte-blanche to all who sail for them, but where a crew-member is given a job for which he is trained, the cap'n must leave him to do it without constantly checking-up and second-guessing. A really good captain will give the crew a little-bit more than they can handle; challenging them so that they may learn. Said best: "a good leader is one who is willing to underwrite the honest mistakes of his subordinates" (I don't recall who said it).
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Old 06-09-2010, 17:26   #11
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Regarding the claim that a good captain trusts the crew:

I once made a passage on a large motoryacht where I was one of three watch captains. A professional captain led the first watch, the yacht's owner led the second watch, and I led the third. Each watch captain was required to plot the boat's position every hour on the hour, and to log supplemental information.

The owner's plots were always a bit hasty, and I'd find myself having to "adjust" them in order to make any sense of my own. I mentioned this to the captain after the first day, and he instructed me merely to "Carry on."

After the second day of the passage, I asked the captain why he wanted these plots on a paper chart, since the boat had a digital recorder that kept a far more precise set of plots that were recorded on paper every 15 minutes. The captain responded that the manual plots accomplished two objectives: First, they convinced the owner that he needed to continue to employ a competent navigator; Second, they convinced the captain that I indeed knew what I was doing when I stood watch.

His instructions at that point? "Carry on." I did so.

A few days later, when we made port, the captain told me that the plots had provided additional information. When I asked what that could possibly be, he said that he'd discovered that I would follow orders even once I understood that the plots were less than critical.

Would I crew for that captain again? You'd better believe it!
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Old 06-09-2010, 17:35   #12
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Originally Posted by Aussiesuede View Post
Uhh...Fishing skills & the proper hat?

Great Captain!
So you gonna tell us about the one that got away?
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Old 06-09-2010, 17:52   #13
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So you gonna tell us about the one that got away?
Never worry about the one that got away. Just toss the hook back in and catch another Captain, ahem fish.



Another GREAT Captain!
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Old 06-09-2010, 18:08   #14
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Great Captain!
Does that Capt. need crew
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Old 06-09-2010, 18:21   #15
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While a good skipper may raise his voice in command to be heard he/she never yells at a crew member.

He recognizes that anything that goes wrong is his fault. Either through lack of clear command, lack of training or putting a crew person on a job for which they are not capable or ready for. Having raced with various skippers the most common and egregious error is putting someone on the bow with no experience and then yelling at them when the spinnaker work doesn't go right.

These skippers expect to win the first time out and don't recognize that winning comes from crew training and practice which is their responsibility.

Cruising skippers are more laid back. You get to see a skippers true colors when things get tense which happens a lot more while racing.
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